Flyers fans guide to the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1
The Philadelphia Flyers aren't in the playoffs but plenty of Former Flyers are!
Mid-to-late April has marked the end of the NHL season for the Philadelphia Flyers in recent years and this year is no different. However, even without the Flyers, the NHL carries on with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For some reason.
The playoffs start on Monday night and will continue for the next two months. The first round, for my money, is the best two weeks of the year for hockey fans. There are four high-stakes games every night of the week from 7 p.m. to midnight, or 1 a.m., or even later.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the playoffs.
New York Islanders vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Shayne Gostisbehere, Rod Brind'Amour, and Broad Street Hockey's own Eric Tulsky lead the Hurricanes into their first-round series against the Islanders. What's not to like in Carolina?
Meanwhile, we've been frustrated time and time again (and Tye McGinn) by the Islanders and their borderline interference plays on seemingly every entry into the offensive zone – granted, that didn't happen very often for the Flyers this season.
You can root for the Islanders if you want – maybe you're friends or family with one of the three Isles fans out there, but this is a pro-Ghost, pro-Rod The Bod, and pro-Dr. T. website.
Florida Panthers vs. Boston Bruins
Is something good finally going to happen to a Boston sports team? The tortured city that has only won 11 championships in the past 20 years heads into these Stanley Cup Playoffs as the odds-on favorite after a historic season. It's Stanley Cup or bust for Boston.
And you know what? Rooting against the big dogs can be fun, especially when it's rooting for the Cats.
Former Flyers great Alex Lyon has taken control of the crease in Florida with a 6-1-1 run to get the Panthers into the playoffs thanks to a Penguins collapse. Oh yeah, they also have Radko Gudas still shooting every puck he sees and hitting everything that moves on the blue line.
So yeah, jumping on the Bruins bandwagon is easy, but cheering against a dominant Boston team is even easier.
Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars
It's important to remember one thing in Philadelphia: Dallas sucks.
Ryan Hartman has turned into a player for the Wild and he'll be someone that Chuck Fletcher's former team relies on in their top six. It's absolutely Wild (get it???) that Minnesota was able to turn Hartman into a 34-goal scorer last year after he had 39 goals in his previous 281 games since 2017.
It's also important to remember in that rooting for the Wild, and against the Stars, that you're standing with Peter Laviolette and Claude Giroux against Steve Ott.
Minnesota also has a Giroux in its organization: Damien Giroux. The choice is easy. Go Wild.
Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers
For older fans, the hatred likely still runs deep for the Oilers. Edmonton killed the Flyers' Stanley Cup dreams twice back in the 80s.
However, more recently it was the "Flyers West" Kings that could have left a bitter taste in some fans' mouths with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne all lifting the Cup in LA.
The only former Flyers player in this series is Zack MacEwen, whose high-flying style of play won over fans in his less than two seasons in Philadelphia.
It was Wayne Gretzky back in the 80s and now it's Connor McDavid as the best player in the league for Edmonton. Flyers fans really have no reason to hate McDavid, though, besides defenseman (redacted) having a bit of a beef with the Oilers star back in 2016.
Basically, you do you for this series. If you want to see the best player in the world finally lift the Cup? I'm right there with you. If you want to root for the underdog Kings and MacEwen? I can't blame you.
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
Can both teams lose?
The only thing to root for here might be a long, physical seven-game series that wears these rivals down to give (hopefully) Carolina an advantage in the second round.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Hoo boy. Here we go again.
Is this the year the Leafs can finally get over the hump? It feels like it might be – especially with Flyers legends Wayne Simmonds, Luke Schenn, and Erik Gustafsson in their locker room.
For as likable as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Brian Elliott are on the Lightning, the Corey Perry factor is very much still in play for Tampa Bay.
You have to root for the Leafs here, right? If they're going to do it, it's going to be in the next few years. Let's get it done before Simmonds retires or leaves for another team – he is a free agent this summer.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Vegas Golden Knights
This might be the least interesting matchup of the first round for casual fans.
The Jets seemingly had a playoff spot locked up around midseason but had to turn it back on after a lackluster period that stretched from January to March. Ultimately, Connor Hellebuyck put Winnipeg on his back and that could very well happen again in these playoffs.
Vegas is still a fun team, although some of their glittery shine might start wearing off if that fanbase doesn't experience some depression soon.
There aren't any strong feelings on either side here. Vegas has Phil Kessel and we're finally getting a chance to see Jack Eichel in the playoffs.
On the other hand, the Jets winning on the back of their goalie may give Flyers fans some hope that Carter Hart could drag this carcass of a roster to the playoffs – and perhaps a playoff run – ahead of schedule.
Seattle Kraken vs. Colorado Avalanche
Dave Hakstol has found some success with the Kraken in Seattle. He's a polarizing figure in Philadelphia, but unless you hate him it could be worth rooting for a fun underdog story with the Kraken.
Seattle is a fun, young team with Calder Trophy favorite Matty Beniers – yes, a grown man goes by "Matty" – that scored the fourth-most goals in the NHL this season with 289 while allowing 252.
The Kraken also have Martin Jones as one of their two goalies, although it should be Philipp Grubauer that mans the net for Seattle.
The Avalanche are looking for their second straight Stanley Cup and should be able to at least get past the Kraken here in the first round. Nevertheless, Seattle is a team worth keeping an eye on – and perhaps rooting for.